“Who Do You Think You Are?”
Guest Writer: LaToya Hankins
Greetings and Salutations, Hot Tea and Ice Sippers! I send well wishes, and hope that 2017 has been filled with good things. We are not going to talk about what happened in D.C. on the third Friday of this month. It is enough to say we should not focus on being discouraged. Instead, we need to commit ourselves to being active, and refuse to let anyone ignore or minimize our value and contributions to this country.
Within this climate of wanting to minimize the diversity that strengthens our community, I want to step forward and represent myself fully. I am a Black-Southern-Virgo-East Carolina University graduate-only child-pet owner-lesbian. That’s just for starters! With enough time I could list even more hyphenated identified groups of which I’m proud to belong.
Depending on the setting, one hyphen might take center stage more than the others. For those who follow social media, J16 saw a lot of doves flying, and blue and white profiling in recognition of my sorority, Zeta Phi Beta, Inc., celebrating its ninety-seventh Founders’ Day. There wereabundances of graphics incorporating our national symbol–the white dove–soaring around.
If you read my books, you know I own being born and reared in the land of sweet tea and “Bless Her Hearts,” known as the South. I’m proud of all the facets of my identity. While I may not celebrate them all the time, I have no problems claiming them.
Our distinctive hyphens make us exceptional. We should never diminish our shine in order to make someone else feels comfortable. You should claim all your methods of belonging and identifying because it celebrates that you accept all that you are, and never just one thing. Those of us with hyphenated identities are mosaic masterpieces. The sum of the pieces makes a one-of-a-kind work of art.
Far be it for me to make the process of walking boldly when others want you to fragment your identity seem easy, for it is not. For a lot of us, it’s easier to not claim our space as a woman, person of color, same-gender-loving individual, and immigrant in order to assimilate. However, when you remove a piece of your puzzle or try to rework your edges, it feels unnatural and ends up being unnecessary.
Now more than ever, it is important that we wear our hyphens boldly. We cannot fade away or leave a piece of us behind on the nightstand or in the car when we venture into the world. Representing to the fullest is a mandate we need to follow through on every chance we get. Others are watching, and when they see us showing up in all our fullest, they have two choices. Get with the program and allow our brilliance to flourish, or get back.
Maybe your hyphens are immigrant-Muslim-historically Black university graduate-single mother-Pisces or same-gender-loving-Trinidadian-bearded-Floridian-divorced-veteran. So many combinations contribute to the achievement that is us. We all have different hyphens; and depending on the situation, the order changes. The key is to never be ashamed of any of them.
Claiming your hyphens and brightly beaming all the facets of your personality like a diamond are powerful. We need to claim that, and walk boldly and dare someone not to salute our greatness.
So, as we move forward into a new year with new leadership (which may not be your choice), realize that within all parts of your identity is the tool to endure and inspire. Draw upon those hyphens, and force those who want to doubt your validity to see that you are too fabulous and fulfilled to be denied. While some may see hyphens as strikes, they instead can be seen as building blocks to help you soar and get over the hurdle.
Until next time, Adios, au revoir, and I “holler.”
LaToya Hankins is the author of SBF Seeking, and K-Rho: The Sweet Taste of Sisterhood. Currently, LaToya is an employee of the State of North Carolina’s Health and Human Services department. Prior to that, she worked for nearly a decade in the field of journalism. An East Carolina University graduate, LaToya earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism, with a minor in political science.
During her college career, LaToya became a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., and currently is the president of the Chapel Hill, N.C. graduate chapter. As well, she is a co-founder and currently serves as the chair of Shades of Pride (SOP), a LGBTQ organization that hosts a yearly event in the Triangle area. SOP’s mission is to create opportunities to acknowledge and celebrate the diversity of North Carolina’s LGBTQ communities.